Cause of ambivalence:
The City (and being a woman who makes art in the city and on the city)
“Dear City, I love you and I hate you. Ambivalently Yours. ❤”
On the streets of Montreal.
I grew up in a rural area, but I’ve always been more of a city girl at heart. One of the things I love the most about the city is when it is used as a canvas for art. The word ‘Graffiti’ is the plural form of the Italian word ‘graffito,’ which means image or text, scratched into a wall. The word was popularized in Pompeii in the late eighteenth century, when visitors started noticing scribbles on the ruin walls. Spray can Graffiti became popular in New York City in the seventies, when graffiti writers began ‘tagging’ their names all over the city. While some graffiti writers saw their practice as art, others saw it instead as a form of resistance and a way of declaring war against the city. For many poor, disenchanted youths, the concept of creating art was an activity reserved for the educated and the wealthy, but by working on the street they created their own gallery space where they had full creative control.
I love Graffiti and Street Art (a much broader movement that includes the use of different symbols, stencils and posters) but it’s always been a more of a boy’s game. Not only is it more dangerous for women to work late at night, but since the seventies and eighties, women graffiti writers have struggled to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. In the book Street Art: the Graffiti Revolution, by Cedar Lewisohn, street artist Lady Pink described her early years as a graffiti writer: “I had to work harder, just like women in the feminist movement. You have to prove yourself twice as hard to even be considered an equal.” Many women in the Graffiti movement (and in the art world in general) react to this gender bias by creating gender-neutral work to avoid being unfairly judged or patronized. Others, like French artists Miss Van and Fafi, embrace their femininity by creating work that showcases stereotypical images of overtly sexualised women painted in bright feminine colors. As you may have already guessed, due to the color palette of this blog, I am one of those artists who believe in the power of pink. Clad in my signature bright pink hoodie (a symbol of masculine teenage rebellion with an ultra flashy feminine twist) I have decided to use the city as my canvas and pink it up.
 Lady Pink, Lewisohn, Cedar. Street Art: the Graffiti Revolution. (New York: Abrams, 2008.), p.46